22 August 2011

The Illegitimate Children of James V

Blythe Gifford

A post on the children of James V, King of Scots, (right) could well be expected to focus on his only surviving child, a daughter who became Mary, Queen of Scots, a queen whose name is known by those who know nothing else of Scotland’s history.

His two legitimate sons, James Stewart and Robert Stewart, were born about a year apart and died about a month apart, just after Robert was born, about mid-year in 1541 and just about a year before King James himself died, leaving Mary Queen at the age of six days.

King James no doubt had never expected succession to come down to an infant girl, for although he had only three legitimate heirs, he fathered at least nine children out of wedlock, three of those before he was twenty. Seven of those children were sons.

It is these illegitimate children I write about today.

As with so many Scottish kings, James was crowned while still an infant, at the age of one, just after the death of his father, James IV, in 1513. The tale is told that young James V was encouraged in his debauchery by one of his regents, but to be fair, illegitimate children had long been a royal prerogative, in England and Scotland. Young James came by it honestly. His own father had seven children out of wedlock by four different mistresses.

But James, who became king in his own right at age 16, was able to best his father. And although the identities of some of the mothers of his children are lost to history, some of his mistresses were the daughters of Scottish nobles. Their children were treated accordingly. This meant that several of them played prominent roles in Scottish history and proved problematic to their half sister, Queen Mary.

Five of the illegitimate sons of King James V were named “Priors” as children. This meant they held the five richest livings in the Scottish Church—Holyrood, Kelso, Melrose, Coldingham, and St Andrews. (This did not happen, of course, without the approval of the Pope. James apparently wrote asking his permission for three of his illegitimate sons to receive ecclesiastical positions before 1532, when the boys were still babes.)

I’ve listed the children below. Don’t worry if you get confused. Three are named James, their father’s name; two are named Robert.

James Stewart, Abbot of Kelso and Melrose. Perhaps born as early as 1529, when his father was 17, James was the son of Elizabeth Shaw “of Sauchie.” He died before age 30.

John Stewart, Lord Darnley. Born 1531/32, before James V was 20, he was reported to be the son of Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Carmichael, a woman two years younger than he. John lived to be barely 32, but long enough to be active in the Scottish Reformation, to marry, and to have children.

James Stewart, Earl of Moray and Mar. James (shown here) was also born somewhere between 1531 and 1533, but his mother was Margaret, daughter of the 4th Lord Erskine who was his father’s favorite mistress. (There were even rumors King James thought to marry Margaret Erskine.) He went on to become the most powerful of James’ illegitimate children. A stanch Protestant, he remained close to his half-sister Queen Mary until she married Henry Stuart, a Catholic. (According to some counts, the earl “changed sides” five times during her reign.)
After her death, however, he was Regent for young James VI, his nephew, who later became James I, uniting England and Scotland under one king. The Earl was shot in 1570, before the age of 50, by a supporter of Queen Mary, the first recorded assassination by a firearm.

Robert, Earl of Orkney. Born in 1533, Robert’s mother, Euphemia, was daughter of Lord Elphinstone, and also granted livings from the church, both before and after the Reformation. King James VI re-created the title Earl of Orkney for him in 1581, when he was approaching fifty.

Adam Stewart. Also the son of an earl’s daughter and a prior of the church. He is reported to have married and died in 1606.

Jean Stewart. This daughter married (and subsequently divorced for desertion) Archibald Campell, the 5th earl of Argyll.
T
hree other children recorded are: James Stewart (another one), Robert Stewart, also a Prior, and Margaret Stewart. Two of these are of “unknown” mothers.

Had King James had half the number of healthy legitimate heirs, history might have been very different.
Blythe Gifford has written five, 14th century medieval romances for Harlequin Historicals featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket, most recently HIS BORDER BRIDE. The Chicago Tribune called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance." She is working on her next book, which will again be set on the Scottish Borders.

28 comments:

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks for the interesting post, Blythe. Things would have been so different if there had been another legitimate Stewart heir. I also wonder about the state of the rest of the world if instead of Elizabeth I, we'd had another Tudor King. Maybe no Protestant Reformation or at least not to the extent that it spread? But then Martin Luther would've had to have been other than himself. Maybe Mary Stewart might've kept her head, eh?

Thanks again for the post.

Blythe Gifford said...

Well, it is possible that Mary might have kept her head (and her throne), if she had been as wise as her cousin Elizabeth.

Undine said...

Odd little footnote: One of these illegitimate sons (I believe it was John Stewart, Lord Darnley) married Janet Hepburn, the sister of Mary's 3rd husband, the Earl of Bothwell. History creates some odd family trees.

Blythe Gifford said...

I knew there was some connection, but I couldn't find it in a way that made sense to me. But Mary's second husband was actually her first cousin, I understand. Royal families were small.

Dr J said...

Love the stories of the royals that lived in the 14th and 15th centuries, and how the course of history has changed because of the longevity of one person rather than another. Great article and one I enjoyed very much. As black a brush and Mary, Queen of Scots, was tarred, I often wonder what kind of woman and ultimately what kind of monarch she would have been had she not been tossed about by such high political tides early in her life. Of course, that can be said for a number of kings and queens who had checkered histories. Thanks again for sharing . . .

Jen B. said...

How interesting! What a mess. I imagine that the half-siblings did give Queen Mary hell. They probably felt it was within their rights!

Blythe Gifford said...

Thanks, Dr J and Jen B for your comments. Glad you enjoyed this peek at history. The role of royal illegitimate children (particularly sons) was very interesting at this time. They clearly had a special status. But though they might have pressed for more - even the throne - it appears there was no overt effort to do so. To be the power behind the throne? Yes.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I've been fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots since I was in high school, so I loved your post today, Blythe. I knew she had several illegitamate siblings but had no idea what happened to them or what role they played. Good post!

Melisende said...

Great post!

Blythe Gifford said...

Jacquie - Glad you enjoyed it. This was the tip of the iceberg on them. Some we know nothing about but their names. A couple of them probably deserve full length biographies. Melisende - thanks so much for your comment!

P.L. Parker said...

Great post! I really enjoyed reading it.

Dee said...

Mary Queen of Scots was actually fond of some of her 1/2 siblings and gave power and wealth to most if not all especially Robert of Orkney. James V did not seem to differentiate much between legitimate vs illegitimate and made sure they all had wealth and power. I know of 9 mistresses/wives. Seems his children knew they were related.

Christine Barclay was said to have a son James, as did Margaret Erskine, Elizabeth Shaw, and Marie de Guise Lorraine. Jean is the dau of Elizabeth Bethune, Euphemia was said to have a second son also named Robert that died before Robert of Orkney and born about 4 years after.

One of his wives, Elizabeth Stewart dau of John Stewart 3rd Earl of Lennon, mother of Adam, divorced James V and married John Stewart of Lenn. One of their descendants married a dau of Margaret Hartsyde, the woman accused of stealing jewels from Anne of Denmark and banished to Orkney. Anne made a death bed confession that Margaret was set up because servants had told her she was telling her secrets to the King. The King made full pardon, restitution, and gave her husband a very powerful position. One of Margaret's other daus married the ggrandson of James V and Euphemia. Just one big old circle.

Having researched the descendants of James V for many years, they have it all: murder, greed, power and sometimes lack of, scandal, mystery, adventure, and even honor, military service, humility, poverty, you name it. They have a story to tell.

Blythe Gifford said...

Dee - Lots of stories to tell about this family! And sources are very inconsistent about names, both of the children and the mothers. I even read that he could well have had more illegitimate children, but of low-born mothers, so never counted or mentioned in the records. Certainly royal bastards were more generally accepted in medieval times than later.

Anonymous said...

If you are and can prove a direct desendant of King James, but was born and live in America, is there any title or crest that you are allowed? And who would you contact to proceed with.

Anonymous said...

I posted the question, if you can prove you are a direct decendant of King James of Scotland are you entitled to a title and crest if you were born in the US. Pls Email me at jacqueline-parks@wowway.com if you know the answer to this question. Several years ago, actually in the mid 90's it was traced, by accident, my mother was looking for something else, when the connection to the King of Scotland revealed we were the decendants. Again, please email if you know, and put in the subject line KING JAMES, because I get a lot of email. Thank you so much, and I am so proud to have found this out!

again, it's jacqueline-parks@wowway.com and subject line King James Thank you!

Anonymous said...

There is another one ancestor of James V of Scotland:
Mark Pfalmer Hummels
Nicholas Edward Hall (the hero)

Anonymous said...

My 13th great grandfather was James Iv of Scotland. I am a descendant of the daughter Mary Jane Stewart who was the daughter of James and his mistress Margaret Dummond. James recognized her and supported her until she was grown. Her mother Margaret Drummond died of food poisoning in 1501.

Anonymous said...

There is a book called The Sons of Isaac written by royal descendants of most of the king & queens of Europe. The American "Byrums" researched their genealogy & it is a fascinating & very informative read!! I was going through some things here at the house & stumbled across the book. Was I surprised to find my name & families names were in this book!! I was under 10 years old when the book was published in the late 1960's & that was the 1st time I had seen or read it. Come to find out I guess I am related to most European, Spanish, Russian & the Royal House of King David, Egyptian & Ethiopian (Queen Bathsheba) Royal Houses along with the Vikings of Norway & Scandinavia. I suppose I received my last name from the last English King Harold Godwineson II, but our genealogy in the book goes before & after Harold II, even his defeator William, Duke of Normandy, France, descendant of the Vikings, later to become William the Conqueror.Haley's Comet came through the skies that year. William took it as a good omen & King Harold II as a bad omen. They were both correct. Harold II, estimated by some would have won the battle in 30 more minutes, sustained an arrow through the eye that along with some more mutilation led to his death & no Pure Anglo-Saxon King has sat on the English Throne since. I am going to write down your contact info & hopefully have a lovely chat one day soon!! Lovely article!! Sandra from across the pond- Smithfield, Isle of Wight, Virginia

lincoln said...

There is something strange about king james, all is paintings are all different, and why is there a bible named after him I think this person has a history, which as been rewritten

Katie L said...

This is in response to Anonymous about the book "The Sons of Isaac" - who's the author of that book and where could I find one? I'm interested in looking into that.

teon blakes said...



Teon Blake - Stewart
It's interesting hearing you shed light on the illegitimate heirs and yet so many fail to mention how many enslaved African royalty/ common natives were also taken into their royal warm beds adding to our lineage - Hence the Stewarts / Stuarts etc , were of mixed heritage down the line that extends to mine - Ive always felt powerful and comfortable and adored being a Stewart of colour here in Great Britain; London England ; moreover it was not fashionable to be dark like it is now studio as it sounds ,and therfore depicted lighter . We are decendants of king james Stewart who generously gave us his land , and blood, passion , and I'm a man of colour who just like them would have been left out of history as you are too insecure to see power in different shades ; Belive how quickly some cultures fall in love especially with a culture from Africa to caribean who shaped the empire off some off their backs unlike me , Power beyond measure as my parents were born know England ; We are also developing luxury apartments on six acres next to Rothchilds one acre estate on the platinum coast. Im also an Artist and writer - feel free to visit and to be enlightened of royal power in darker skin. BLACK and white mix through segrating are now bronze not Black- king james saw to that through God ; most high I quote.
The paintings weren't all wrong , you just failed to examine & remember mixed raced babies are very light ; and as it was popular to be fair that is how they look ; like the mixed raced Charlotte ( who they foolishly label black but she is fair with African features making her mixed race whos blood runs through Elizabeth and so fourth and now mixed with our stewart blood have true Noble blood)Yes, Queen charlotte you'll see black features ;
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/12/...
Kindest,
Teon Blake-Stewart

teon blakes said...



Teon Blake - Stewart
It's interesting hearing you shed light on the illegitimate heirs and yet so many fail to mention how many enslaved African royalty/ common natives were also taken into their royal warm beds adding to our lineage - Hence the Stewarts / Stuarts etc , were of mixed heritage down the line that extends to mine - Ive always felt powerful and comfortable and adored being a Stewart of colour here in Great Britain; London England ; moreover it was not fashionable to be dark like it is now studio as it sounds ,and therfore depicted lighter . We are decendants of king james Stewart who generously gave us his land , and blood, passion , and I'm a man of colour who just like them would have been left out of history as you are too insecure to see power in different shades ; Belive how quickly some cultures fall in love especially with a culture from Africa to caribean who shaped the empire off some off their backs unlike me , Power beyond measure as my parents were born know England ; We are also developing luxury apartments on six acres next to Rothchilds one acre estate on the platinum coast. Im also an Artist and writer - feel free to visit and to be enlightened of royal power in darker skin. BLACK and white mix through segrating are now bronze not Black- king james saw to that through God ; most high I quote.
The paintings weren't all wrong , you just failed to examine & remember mixed raced babies are very light ; and as it was popular to be fair that is how they look ; like the mixed raced Charlotte ( who they foolishly label black but she is fair with African features making her mixed race whos blood runs through Elizabeth and so fourth and now mixed with our stewart blood have true Noble blood)Yes, Queen charlotte you'll see black features ;
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/12/...
If you keep leaving out the bronze pieces of the puzzle you'll never know true his history . But thankfully future films of the Harry potter team love my writing and film concepts where I've featured such truth , that will hopefully draw the attention to the Royals that walk among you illegitimate, or not it makes no difference to God. Blood is blood .

Kindest,
Teon Blake-Stewart

Sophia Henkel said...

This is very interesting, I just found out today James IV is my grandfather 14 generations back from Margaret James illegitimate daughter of James V. Thank you for clarifying. I only I know some of the English line or royalty and was very confused about who Margaret was. I did not even know there was Scotch in my family tree until my son was born and my grandmother told me that he, and my mother's red hair came from her, my grandmother's, dad. I only knew of the Finsh, his wife and my grandfather's Swedish side. I allways said I was of slave and peasant stock, what do you know.

Debra Johnson said...

Not first cousins, they were both the grandchildren of Margaret Tudor. Mary - James V - Margaret Tudor. Darnley - Margaret Douglas - Margaret Tudor.

Sue Hinshaw said...

I had always heard that we were related to the Stewart/Stuart royal family, but it wasn't until I did DNA research on Ancestry.com that it was confirmed. I'm the 12th great granddaughter of King James V, via his illegitimate son, Robert. Robert's mother was Euphemia Elphinstone, my 12th great grandmother.

Dear ANONYMOUS: Is the book, "The Sons of Isaac," by Roberta Kells Dorr? I found it listed on Amazon. It doesn't seem likely - because it's about the bible. If there is another book with the same title, would you let me know the author/s and publisher? I would love to read it.


Thank you!
Sue

Unknown said...

I am interested in the james v bastard daughter margaret. I have an ancestor who is supposedly this woman but her birth is recorded as being when james v was 12 yrs old. Is there any reason to think this could actually have happened?

James Waddell said...

Who was the husband of margaret.

I am supposedly descended from her as well.

James Waddell said...

I am interested in the james v bastard daughter margaret. I have an ancestor who is supposedly this woman but her birth is recorded as being when james v was 12 yrs old. Is there any reason to think this could actually have happened?